Anti-Spaniards for Spain: Irony, Terrorism, and La Roja

By | February 18, 2010

The whole army of Spanish media outlets has been splashed with this bit of news, regarding the facebook page of suspected ETA members–ETA being, for those unfamiliar with Spain, the Basque separatist-terrorist group responsible for thousands of acts of violence since their establishment during the Franco dictatorship. From sports dailies such as AS to Marca, to dailies such as El Mundo and even regional papers like La Voz de Galicia, most everyone had a shot at this piece.

The story stems from a photo on a facebook profile of one of the suspected terrorists, Jon Rosales, along with another suspected member, Adur Aristegi, in which both are wearing new Spanish national team jerseys and are posing with a third person also wearing the jersey. Underneath the image, a comment from Rosales saying “WE CAN DO IT” [“Podemos”].

ETA--fans of "La Roja?"

AS's take on the matter

The intrigue begins at the hour of deciding upon whom the joke has actually fallen. The mainstream media seems to interpret the situation as a one showcasing the comical ineptitude of modern-day ETA. The fact that terrorists would have facebook pages is being presented as a hallmark of the stupidity of the terrorists (though we really know that we should be suspicious of those amongst us who don’t have a facebook page).

I lament the fact that so many of the aforementioned media sources overlook the richest piece of evidence here: the photo itself. In it, the two suspects appear to be having fun–whether they are aware of their irony or not. Are they cheering for Xabi Alonso? Reveling in the glorious past of the Clemente era, when Spain were coached by a proud and impossibly red-faced chain smoker who happened to be Basque?

Javier Clemente, from

Javier Clemente, from

Those of us who remember the Clemente era will now light up in a frenzy of conspiracy theories. Maybe ETA long-ago penetrated the “Roja”in an attempt to sabotage Spain’s chances in the World Cup? Of course! That would explain Spain’s ignominious 1998 failure at the hands (literally) of Andoni Zubizaretta (cue similarities with Fabianski’s own goal yesterday). And the absence of Basques in the Euro 2008 starting lineup would explain why Spain did so well (though this aspect invites the possibility of a Catalan conspiracy to take over Spain through it’s tiki taka football).

Back to the photo: so are they being sarcastic here? If so, this is a pretty long way to go to be sarcastic. Walking into a store, befriending the clerk, trying on jerseys, all at the same time (what coordination!), hamming it up for the camera. It seems like one of those jokes that is intrinsically sick because it is more the playing out of a true fantasy than the dismissal of some idea (in this case, that Basque separatists could secretly love Spain).

And even more questions: did they actually end up buying the jerseys? (I wonder if ETA would fund such a thing in such economic times when the pirated versions are so much cheaper). Even more importantly, do ETA followers cheer for Xabi Alonso (a native Guipozcoan) when he plays for the national team?

Finally, it is worth mentioning one paper that didn’t include the news on the front page: Sport.  Their headline: Guardiola wants to coach the national team. Which one? Well, Sport says loud and clear, he doesn’t say!

Guardiola in Sport

Guardiola in Sport

Coincidence or not: the people who arrested the ETA members were, of course, Catalans from the mossos, Catalunya’s regional, autonomous police force.


Category: Spain World Cup

About Joaquin Bueno

I am a grad student in the Romance Studies department. Currently I'm starting my dissertation, which will be a study of the importance of football in Franco's dictatorship in Spain during the 50's and 60's, the first "Golden Age" of Spanish football. I hope to also explore cultural politics and power structures in the age of global democracy. My teams are my two hometowns: Celta de Vigo (Spain), and also DC United (though I haven't followed them since the first season of MLS). I also play pick-up every week with varying degrees of success.

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